Tec group in old France / THU 1-31-13 / Trumpet blares / Turkey chicken dish served cold / Threaded across down / Trademarked Intel chip / Toon/live action film of 1996 / Titan booster

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Constructor: Mike Buckley

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging


THEME: T-SHAPES (23D: This puzzle's theme)— black squares form a bunch of Ts. Also (and I assume this is part of the "theme," even though this is in no way related to "shapes"), the homophones TEAS, TEASE, and TEES are running across the center of the grid. Also, all clues start with "T."

Word of the Day: GALANTINE (27D: Turkey or chicken dish served cold) —
galantine is a French dish of de-boned stuffed meat, most commonly poultry or fish, that is poached and served cold, coated withaspic. Galantines are often stuffed with forcemeat, and pressed into a cylindrical shape. Since deboning poultry is thought of as difficult and time-consuming, this is a rather elaborate dish, which is often lavishly decorated, hence its name, connoting a presentation at table that is galant, or urbane and sophisticated. In the later nineteenth century the technique's origin was already attributed to the chef of the marquis de Brancas. The preparation is not always luxurious: Evelyn Waugh in his novel Men at Arms mentions "a kind of drab galantine which Guy seemed to remember, but without relish, from his school-days during the First World War". (wikipedia)
• • •

Yikes. This week has been pretty dire. First, black squares are not a "theme." They are a curiosity, at best. So, we have essentially one line, 13 squares, of true theme material here. Beyond that, we have a painful themeless. Painful, and also comical, since it Perfectly illustrates the folly of the pangram. Multiple ENEROS! Multiple SINES! Something called a FARON (21A: "This Little Girl of Mine" country singer ___ Young) and a GALANTINE (27D: Turkey or chicken dish served cold) and an OUTGO (one word?) (45A: Tide's ebb, e.g.). That OUTGO section was nearly a complete deal-breaker for me. HSN? I barely know it exists. TANTARAS? I ... don't even ... know (34D: Trumpet blares). SURETÉ!? If I weren't a longtime solver with a somewhat decent memory, then uh uh, no way (43D: Tec group in old France). Terri GIBBS? Same thing. I know her only from clues for TERRI (46D: Terri with the 1980 country hit "Somebody's Knockin'"). Partial O SOLE! Brilliant! (I'm actually grateful for that one, as I needed the gimme pretty bad). WAHR! (28A: True: Ger.) And what is all this [fill-in-the-blank] fill in service of? Nothing. Buncha black squares and a single line of true "theme" material. Making every clue start with "T"—a late attempt to deepen the "theme," I'm guessing—really only makes matter worse. With great fill, that gimmick works. Without ... now you're just torturing folks. NETLIKE! (48A: Threaded across and down) It's like a net, only ... not? Who knows? I give up.


Bullets:
  • 1A: Toon/live action film of 1996 ("SPACE JAM") — starring Michael Jordan. I forgot this existed. Not an original answer, but a nice one.
  • 17A: "Three Sisters" playwright Chekhov (ANTON) — made things much harder on myself by misreading this clue as asking for a sister's name.
  • 19A: Trademarked Intel chip (CELERON) — no idea. Or, rather, no idea until I had -ELERON. Then something clicked. Little Late!
  • 3D: Titan booster (AGENA) — never heard of it or seen it outside crosswords. Crosswordese of a pretty high order.
The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

104 comments:

chefwen 12:09 AM  

ACK! Someone imbed Bill the Cat for me please.

Carola 12:12 AM  

Well, liked it better than @Rex. Quite an elegant puzzle, I thought, with T-SHAPES defining the grid and appearing as the central down word with the three "T'S" crossing it. And with AESTHETE, GALANTINE, CABARETS, and TANTARAS. I hadn't seen that the clues all start with T!

Found it on the challenging side. Despite noticing the black T's in the grid, it took me a long time to believe those three first consonants in TSHAPES. SE was tough. Didn't know GIBBS or HSN; only recalled SURETE when I had all but the S. Also needed several TRIES to get TANTARAS - first thought it was TAtooeS, then TArahRAS, finally remembered the N.

Possible reactions to the presence of a TINDERBOX - ACK! STRESSED, IN A STATE, WOEBEGONE.

jackj 12:14 AM  

Starting all the clues with the same letter has been done in the past and while it seems like a daunting task my guess is that once the letter is settled upon, jiggering the clues is eminently doable (using dogged imagination, for sure).

So, what we really have is a themeless puzzle wrapped around eight black TSHAPES that are done for the puzzle’s look (and the added T tie-in), with a triple “T” homophone for the center across answers, TEAS, TEASE and TEES and of course the all T’s-all-the-time cluing. T is for Tiresome?

So, no raving about the theme from this quarter but (some of) the fill is double T, TTerrific!

From Garrison Keillor’s Lake WOEBEGONE, clued for the T effect as “Tragedy-stricken”, MONARCHS, even though they flow from Tsars rather than Larvae, and another that clearly shows how some of this T-ing can be done as the T clue for SCOOTERED comes too easily when “Traveled” is tied to “Vespa”.

Entries that are too arcane include FARON, WAHR, GIBBS, SPACEJAM, ACK (never to be used sans Cathy or Bill the Cat), GALANTINE, TANTARAS and the rugby scores of TRIES; but let’s just be kind and call them Tough.

Beauties that would be winners in any late week puzzle, (i.e. with or without a “T” clue) include AESTHETE, SEENOEVIL, SALTED, CABARETS, Insp. Clouseau of the French SURETE´ and the tadpole that couldn’t decide whether he wanted to be a FROG or a TOAD so he settled on being a NEWT.

Thanks, Mike, the puzzle works on many levels but for me, the theme made me think, TILT! The fill made me think THANKS!

Anonymous 12:14 AM  

"Treated for preservation, maybe"?
How about "Like a margarita glass"? There, I just made the puzzle less onerous. See what happens when you don't follow some inane, made up constraint on your puzzle?

The puzzle conceit took all the potential wit out of the clueing.

Danny 12:19 AM  

I quite agree!

retired_chemist 12:24 AM  

Definitely challenging. Took me a long time - even long for a Friday, which is what it felt like. Had ICK for ACK @ 41A, and correcting that was my final fix. Overwrites: 28A ECHT => WAHR; 44A EMPERORS => MONARCHS.

Liked both the theme and the fill better than Rex did. So, a nice, meaty Thursday. Thanks, Mr.Buckley.

JFC 12:35 AM  

I have no idea what Rex is thinking. Well, yes I do. Rex likes crossword puzzles with imaginative words. Rex, through that complicated garb at heart is a crossword purist, much like Rick through that cynical shell is a rank sentimentalist. Rex does not like gimmicks. Thursday puzzles are gimmicks and I think this qualifies. I liked it. I liked it a lot. But then I like gimmicks more than I like words....

JFC

Anonymous 12:45 AM  

Totally agree with Rex. And all the awful crosswordese was made even worse by a stack of truly bizarre, awkward answers. How is a "twit" a "tease"? "Telegraphese" is a thing? "Outgo" is a noun? "Scootered" is a verb? When was the last time anyone said they "scootered" somewhere? And "Trimness"? Please.

PK 12:51 AM  

I had three candidates in the running for WOD - galantine (Rex's pick), as well as tantaras (which makes me think I'v never seen Quentin TARANTINO in a puzzle, but would like to) and surete (which I don't know how to pronounce, don't really know what means, and also did not understand the clue - what is a "tec group" and what is "old France"?) (big punctuation jam there) Guess I'll be googling that little sucker.

Other than that, I really liked the puzzle. Refreshingly rebus-free for a Thursday, unless you count the tsquares. Loved the contrast of woebegone and entranced.

PK 12:56 AM  

Don't usually even read much less respond to anonymous comments, but I'm up late so, why not: Twit is used as a verb in the clue.

Oops Pow Surprise 1:51 AM  

24 minutes for me. Utterly brutal. Took down the NW in about 0.0007 seconds and thought I was well on my way. HO HO HO NO.

Agena Celeron Monarchs 2:00 AM  

Only noticed the visuals, so when I got T Shape, thought "How interesting that a theme is not in the grid but of the grid...that's thinking outside the box!" Or in this case, inside the (TINDER)Box!!!

It's quite the fun and lovely-looking grid!

Very cool.

Tho ridiculously cranky, I actually appreciate tonight's write up as I hadn't noticed the TEAS, TEASE, TEES across the middle, which only make me appreciate it more...

Bizarrely didn't notice that all the clues began with T to boot!!!! So this just grows and grows on me!

Natick for me at AGENe/FeRON. Drat! One Wrong Square...haven't had that in a while.

Having heNCE for SINCE left me thinking that "The House of Seven Gables" locale was a hArEM!!!!

(Attention Tita...probably belongs on the very wrong answer list you keep!)

(It's also one of the few clues that start with "The" so that's admirable...considering the constraints...and it's very much a part of the title!)

@JackJ...I went thru the same metamorphoses of frog, toad, NEWT...

And OAK before ELM led to asKedout, which became beckONED before SUMMONED.

Blaming this on a forced pangram (which I hadn't even noticed) is at this point faux and tired...

As a matter of fact, I'd argue quite the opposite, ie that the words that led to the pangram:
SPACEJAM, KENNEDYS, EQUITABLE, ORGANIZER, TINDERBOX
were the actual strength of this puzzle!

SO ttttthere! ;)

Anoa Bob 2:06 AM  

I love WOEBEGONE (16A) and its clus "Tragedy-stricken". I just don't think they go together. Maybe I've been too much influenced by Garrison Keillor's "Lake Woebegon" (w/o the final "e") and think of WOEBEGONE as something much milder than tragedy.

Lots of good stuff like CABARETS,
AESTHETE, and TANTARAS. WAHR (28A), however, is one of the ugliest fills I've ever seen and I would have deconstructed the entire puzzle and started over in order to avoid that one.

jae 2:07 AM  

Toughest Thurs. in a while for me.  Two WOE country singers, a random German word, an indiscernible theme until almost done, and GALANTINE made for a Fri./Sat. level themeless (and I'm just ignoring SURETE, AESTHETE, CELERON,  RECOURSE as clued...).

I actually kinda liked it.  I just seemed very odd, even for a Thurs.

JohnChild 2:34 AM  

One of the really fun parts of this blog is the difference in how puzzles played for the commenters. I'm a novice (18 months doing crosswords) but I thought this was an easy Thursday. I struggled with AGENx and ENERxE crossing FxRxN (who I finally remembered) and with TANTARAS, but otherwise just filled in the answers without much effort.

jae 2:59 AM  

@JohnChild -- Hey, I'm up in The OC visiting friends with whom alcohol consumption is a must, plus I was watching a movie (Trouble With The Curve) while solving and I typed O SOLE "OSLOE" and never noticed it until the SE just wouldn't work, and, despite all these advantages, it was still tough.

Oh, and if you ended up with ENER(x to O)E you had a DNF.

Evan 3:17 AM  

Aside from the top three across answers in the northeast corner, I really did not enjoy this puzzle. T-SHAPES is not a good revealer -- yes, I get that the black squares are shaped like the letter T. I get that the three answers in the middle are homophones. But according to Matt Ginsberg's database, neither the word T-SHAPE nor T-SHAPES has been used as an answer in any puzzle. Ever. That's because it's not a term that anyone uses. T-SHAPED is more common -- you might refer to something that's shaped like a T, but you probably wouldn't say, "Look at that T-SHAPE over there!" "T-SHAPES," by the way, gets you only 72,000 hits on Google. You might as well just make your revealer TEES, since that's what they are. T-SHAPES is just redundant.

Then there's the fill. CELERON, WAHR, OUTGO, NETLIKE, ENEROS, SCOOTERED (?), TRIMNESS, GALANTINE, TANTARAS, ACK, SURETE, O SOLE -- just way too many long entries that amounted to a complete "huh?" reaction out of me. And don't get me started on the FARON/AGENA crossing. That one completely flummoxed me. Any vowel could have conceivably worked there, if you're not familiar with the country singer or the rocket stage. I thought the answer was AGENT, as in, a booster (of sorts) for a Tennessee Titan. FTRON didn't look good, but I thought maybe it was an initialized name, F.T. Ron Young. But nope, it was FARON, a term that never, ever shows up in puzzles (although I sorta remember the name as FARON Woods, the forest stage in the "Legend of Zelda" games). Shame that it had to cross AGENA, something I don't recall ever seeing anywhere either.

syndy 3:31 AM  

didn't love it didn't hate it;found it easy.I liked the "T" shapes but not so much the Tortured clues.Agena was a gimmee-dad worked for the space program.The Surete is gone? breaks my heart.Netlike was my last entry bizarre. Tantaras a Gilbert and Sullivan shout out!Celeron-how soon they forget.

Milford 5:54 AM  

I guess I'm in the grumpy/DNF camp. Missed half the gimmicks, didn't notice that all the clues started with T-SHAPES, nor the pangram. Country music clues are completely foreign to me. Thought some clues were very odd and confusing (although at least now I know why).

I'm glad others enjoyed it, though.

I love charcuterie, but that GALANTINE description does not sound appetizing. Just give me a turkey sandwich, please.

Gill I. P. 5:55 AM  

AGENA FARON CELERON WAHR put me IN A STATE. That whole middle section was a mess and it sure didn't help that my tadpole wanted to be a toad.
I don't know how I could have missed all the clues starting with "T" but I did and I didn't even notice the TEAS TEASE TEES!!!
Even though I flet like a twit, I liked lots of the words. SEE NO EVIL CABARETS TANTARAS.
It has grown on me so I say good job Mr. Buckley

Mitzie 6:40 AM  

Basically agree with @Rex, but also basically agree with @Acme re: the pangram. I don't think it was the pangram that killed this puzzle.

This was a crummy Thursday.

OTD 7:11 AM  

Agree with Rex. Odd puzzle for me. When I finally finished I thought I should have done better timewise. Much of it was quite easy, some of it quite difficult, so I guess medium to challenging is right. Never heard of GALANTINE. Did like WOEBEGONE as I'm a Keillor fan.

Never did get the theme's connection to the puzzle except as the shape of the black squares. Don't recall any puzzle that did that before.

Doris 7:25 AM  

Just to be pedantic, bloggers: Keillor's mythical but by now iconic community is deliberately spelled WOBEGON, perhaps to make it sound or look a bit like a Native American word or just, perhaps for good fun.

MetaRex 7:29 AM  

I would have appreciated more transparent clues on the HSN-SURETE crossing. How about "TV cubic zirconium purveyor" and "Title for French police force"?

I liked this a whole lot better than Rex did...I would love to have the spatial/grid pattern side of CWPs rise substantially as a factor that constructors and solvers focus on and appreciate.

A difference between-Rex and MetaRex

Rob C 7:35 AM  

@Anoa Bob
How about "Troubled" as the clue for WOEBEGONE? Not a perfect fit, but better than Tragedy-stricken.

WAHR, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

dk 8:18 AM  

Not my cuppa. Found some of the fill to be stretch (OUTGO! Is the opposite INGO and a neap tide NOGO).

I did like the TSHAPES in the grid. Wish Tron made it to the grid as the TSHAPES look like the warships in Traon and… nevemind.

�� (1…..) Yikes and Dire work for me

Glimmerglass 8:43 AM  

Maybe not "theme" but a really cool gimmick and a fine puzzle (challenging but doable). I'm a closet county fan, especially old-time country; so Faron Young (Four Walls) and Terri Gibbs (Somebody's Knockin') were gimmes for me. They probably overlapped careers in the 1980s. Needed every cross for GALANTINE and TANTARA, but the rest of it was really fun.

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

Threw down SPACEJAM In an instant off the S of SOWS, Got stuck briefly with Atlas in place of AGENx, the x in question the last square filled. Moved to the NE, where I was compelled to enter SCOOTERED and asked out loud "that's a word?!" (Puzzle husband doesn't even look up from the paper anymore) Hand up for frog – toad – NEWT.

Liked the TSHAPES from a visual standpoint, although not so much the way they broke up the midsection of the grid, and constrained movement between the corners.

Loved the TINDERBOX/EQUITABLE mini-stack, all the Js, and the evocative word TANTARAS. And thanks, @Doris, for picking the nit so that I didn't have to :-)

And can someone tell me why I can no longer post using NAME/URL on my iPhone, And must apparently remain anonymous?

--FearlessKim

MarkK 8:59 AM  

Oh the misplaced efforts. Another DNF. Grrr.

Had TANTARAS but wanted FANFARES and spent many many minutes trying to make that fit. Couldn't decipher TS_APES and spent many many minutes trying to correct it. Thought I had misspelled GALANTINE but didn't think that I had misspelled DENERO (Also had HENCE for SINCE so I'm with the above commenter on the head scratching town of HALEM.)

And then the final straw was the struggle to get INASTATE. I hate when I can't break the box enough to see a multi-word answer. Even when I saw the solution I thought that 'inastate' was a new word for me. D'oh.

joho 9:02 AM  

I think it's interesting that many of us, me included, didn't see the TEAS, TEASE, TEES or that all the clues started with "T." It does add to the TSHAPES theme, but it makes me think there's a flaw here. And @Rex, no, not because this is a pangram. I agree with @Acme that some of the best fill exists because this IS a pangram.

I misspelled it GALlaTINE which totally messed me up in that section. I also didn't know FARON so I never saw NEWT. WAHR? Yikes!
WOEBEGONE me, I DNF.

Thanks to Mike Buckley for all the care that went into making this puzzle, it's much appreciated by me even though I failed to get it.

BTW, it didn't helped that I at first chose TSHirtS for the theme! I have no idea where I was going with that!

jberg 9:09 AM  

Like @Evan, I had AGENt/FtRON, and thought it was initials - but then at the last minute I remembered, vaguely, hearing the name FeRON Young - and at that point I'd changed AGENt to AGENA, but then changed it again, so finished with an error. Gah! (Also ACK!)

I also had treu before WAHR, and autARCHS before MONARCHS. Otherwise this wasn't too hard, except for the error. Only at the last minute did I notice the T-starting clues, which probably explained why so many of them were so contorted.

Why "old" in the clue for SURETE? Don't they call it that any more?

Finally, the pangram. A) I like them, and it fits well with general idea of a gimmicky puzzle - you set lots of constraints, and try to make it work. B) But @ACME, the criticism isn't that the words with the hard letters are strange - they will be, almost by definition - but that once you have that words, then you need some strange short fill to make them fit together. To me, it's worth it, but not to everyone, clearly.

evil doug 9:10 AM  

Reeeeeally sure that the theme answer would be 't-square', so I helplessly prowled the grid for a link to that concept. It's a crossword, full of squares, with floating blocks of t's that look like the architectural devices---gotta be t-square, right?....

No dice. Maybe t-shirts?

So I always finish. Not always correctly, but verrrrry rarely do I leave a blank square. Today? Six or seven. And when I finally threw in the towel, I was hacked off, not impressed by its (lack of) elegance, when I espied the solution.

Is 'wahr' short for something? I figured it must be, given the 'Ger.' clue. No idea.

'In a state' is such a wasted phrase. So many more lively, vivid ways to be tense.

'Ack'. A noise. What we scolded our kids when they were about to touch garbage. Like this puzzle.

'Netlike'? Eat me. Tedious. This puzzle is craplike.

Evil No See



Anonymous 9:13 AM  

So close. If I'd entered HSN instead of HLN, I would have been there.

B Donohue 9:23 AM  

DNF because of the SE corner.

I think of TINDERBOXES as catching fire, not "exploding." It is funny how often SPACEJAM appears- at least 2-3 times in my short solving experience.

Norm 9:37 AM  

I'd rate this one ugh to meh.

evil doug 9:47 AM  

Oh, one other thing...

I'm generally neutral on pangrams. If it seems like it's serendipitous, or done without weakening the grid, fine. If the constructor is trying too hard to pull it off for his/her own self-satisfaction rather than mine, and the resulting solution is dumbed down, then I'd rather have a 25-letter puzzle any day.

But to start every clue with the same letter (or, as we've seen, with every letter in the alphabet in order), there can be no doubt that the constructor is selfishly sacrificing the quality of cluing to feed his own ego---"Look what I can do!"

Next to giving yourself a moronic 'shout-out' in your *own* puzzle (or the tired insistence that some common cliche answer is necessarily a kiss surreptitiously blown at you), this is about as narcissistic a piece of verbal masturbation as there can be.

Evil

C. Ross Word 9:52 AM  

Hated this puzzle so much! Never had a real chance to finish. WAHR (unknown German word) crossing the bizarre TSHAPE: either would have been okay without the other. Too many vague, non-descript answers that could literally have been almost anything: TRIMNESS, INASTATE, NETLIKE. The totally arcane: SURETE, TANTARAS, HSN. I could go on! One of the downsides of improving one's solving skills is developing the conceit that you can solve any puzzle. Not the case today, for me, leading to an unenjoyable, overly long slog. ACK!

Sir Hillary 10:01 AM  

Brutal Thursday -- I didn't even come close to finishing. Tons of crosswordese and stuff I didn't know. Boring theme which was immediately obvious, given the black squares and the clues. I didn't care for it.

But can we please stop blaming the grid on a pangram, as if we can tell that the pangram in and of itself is the cause of some obscure fill? I'm with Acme -- that's way too easy a dodge.

It's also amusing how some of us think we know what's in the mind of the constuctor -- whether he/she is constructing for his/her amusement or the solvers'. Talk about masturbation...[where is a rolling-eyes smiley when I need it?]

Susan McConnell 10:10 AM  

Well, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who didn't see TEAS/TEASE/TEES or all of the clues starting with T.

I thought all those black Ts were pretty cool, but the puzzle itself just turned out to be meh.

John V 10:13 AM  

DNF, mostly due to SW. Lots of Saturday level answers; figured out the revealer but did not understand until I came here. Clever but not my cuppa. I don't think to look at a pattern in the clues to be part of the theme.

Cross WAHR with AESTHETE which is crossed with NETLIKE which is clued in an unfathomable way? Really?

So the conceit is that the clues forced the fill. I'm thinking bass-ackward is the word I want. Just because this could be done doesn't mean it should be done.

Sorry, Mike Buckley. Nothing personal.

evil doug 10:14 AM  

Let me spell it out for you, Hillary. I'll type slowly for your benefit.

One set is "The Best Possible Clues." The alternative set is "The Best Possible Clues That Start With T." If your interest is unselfish, which one do you pick? Beyond noticing, "Huh, what do you know, he started every clue with the same letter", what possible pleasure does the solver derive from that---especially when contrasted with the infinitely larger set of potential clue choices?

Pleasure yourself on that, smiley eye-roller....

Evil

Doris 10:22 AM  

Forgot to include my source for TANTANTARA. It's the "March of the Peers" from G&S's "Iolanthe."

"Peers: Loudly let the trumpet bray! The trumpet bray! Tan tan ta ra! Proudly bang the sounding brasses! The sounding brasses! Tzing! Boom! Basses: As upon its lordly wa-ay! Tenors: Tan ta ra ra ra ra ra! Basses: This unique procession passes! Tenors: Tzing Tzing Boom! Tzing Tzing Tzing Boom! All: Tan tan ta ra ra ra ra ra! Bow Bow, ye lower middle classes! Bow Bow ye tradesman bow ye masses! Blow the trumpets bang the brasses! Tan tan tara Tzing boom! We are peers of highest station Paragons of legislation Pillars of the British nation! Tan tan tara Tzing boom! (repeat if desired) Ta ran ta ra ra ra ra raaaaaa!"

Tzing boom to you, too!

mac 10:30 AM  

Medium-tough Thursday for me, but in the end I had a mistake: HST/tattaras. Spellcheck doesn't like either.

1. I didn't notice the teas - tease - tees
2. Didn't see all the clues start with t.
3. Didn't check for a pangram.

I still had a good time with this puzzle. Of course it helps when "wahr is a gimme, as well as galantine. For the life of me I can't understand how anyone can complain about beautiful long words such as cabarets, scootered, woebegone etc. And then there are equitable, tinderbox, entranced and see no evil!

Smitty 10:39 AM  

Neil Armstrong's Gemini 8 mission almost ended in tragedy after docking their space capsule with the AGENA booster
They spun out of control, almost blacked out and had to abort the mission.
Probably only me and Tom Hanks know that.

Tough but fun puzzle.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:39 AM  

Decent puzzle, on the easy side. But I will be very happy when the Thursday Rebus Factory is up and running again.

On a personal note, best wishes for a great time to all going to the Westport Puzzle Contest and related festivities. I am off on a ten day trip, and since I am the only one in the group without an iPad or similar gear, I will be internet free.

Sir Hillary 10:40 AM  

@10:14

The terrible t-clues to this totally tortuous Thursday trashfest tell the tale that the theme 'twas tissue-thin. 'Taint truly tantamount to tossing the turkey, though.

Ta ta, tool.

(You're right...way too constraining)

Two Ponies 10:54 AM  

I fell two squares short of finishing. The A of Faron (who?) and the S of HSN/Surete (double Huh?)
Comments today are great.
@ dk, NO GO was great.
@ ED, Craplike made me laugh.
@ mac, I had the same 1,2,3 list.

Evan 10:57 AM  

Correction to my earlier comment:

I meant the northWEST corner. I liked the top three across entries there.

Elle54 11:28 AM  

Wow! I don't usually criticize a puzzle, but I thought there were too many non- guessable answers this time. WAHR, AGENA,GIBBS(I even googled that one). Twit =tease... Did not know that. CELERON ??
But the T Shapes in the grid, Teas-Tees, Clues starting with T's, and panagram------- RESPECT.

Onan 11:45 AM  

@ evil doug

Why so negative on the "private practice?"

Sandy K 11:52 AM  

@mac and @Two Ponies
Count me in for the 1,2,3 list.

Not ENTRANCED by the theme?, TOLERATED the fill, STRESSED out by NEWT/WAHR/TEASE- Twit=TEASE?

SURETE, GALANTINE, FARON, TRIES had me WOEBEGONE, but somehow I finished!

@Doris- I got TANTARAS from G&S' Pirates of Penzance.

Unknown 11:53 AM  

how 'bout the "teas" "tease" "tees"
row?

Michael Hanko 11:54 AM  

As a sometime poet and lyricist, I have often appreciated how strictures—form, rhyme schemes, spelling out words with the first letters of lines, etc.—can actually enhance the resulting work. Even a seeming bowdlerization can result in improvements, as I found recently when writing the sexier bits out of some song lyrics that had offended a test audience...what I ended up with was surprisingly more powerful for having an additional stricture (PG-13 rating) placed on my writing.

The converse is also true. "Free-form" verse with no meter rhyme can be inspired, but is often just crappy.

But the artist's task—or the crossword constructor's—is to balance strictures with the resulting work. If it doesn't improve your product, you may be setting too many obstacles in your own path.

Tough tale to tell; totally true, though.

J S Bach 11:57 AM  

So, when I sat down to write "The Well-Tempered Clavier" it was a narcissistic act rather than an artistic exploration?

Hmmm.

Michael Hanko 11:59 AM  

@J S Bach

Nicht wahr.

Ellen S 12:18 PM  

Hand up for not noticing that every clue started with "T" until coming here. Also didn't notice the homophones TEAS TEASE TEES, just filled in the squares and went on.

Pretty easy for me. My criteria are: finishing without Google, finishing without having to use the Check/cheat function to find my errors, finishing before the next puzzle is released (or within my lifetime, whichever comes first).

Same writeover as @ACME, heNCE before SINCE, which similarly had me thinking that "The House of Seven Gables" was set in a harEM. I've never read the novel but SALEM seemed more probable so on I went. And tenTED before SALTED. I was thinking "preserve" a house from termites.

@J.S.Bach, you were employed to write music so you had to please your patrons. However, The Well-Tempered Clavier was a gimmick set of compositions, kind of a pangram for keyboard. So maybe the moral is, if even with the gimmick you have clever clues and lively fill, then it's a tour de force. If it forces you into bad clues and stale fill, then it's best kept out of sight.

Regardless, I liked a lot of the fill, so thank you for the nice puzzle, Mr Buckley.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

isnt it fanfara? didnt get newt.had nest. saw the t's in the three homonyms across but didnt notice that all clues had t's. somehow despite the cleverness of the grid and ideas behind, the puzzle disappoints but maybe that's sour grapes. also had acH so didnt get netline.had hence for a while.knew gallantine...to make one is on my bucket list. speaking of that list.....
saturday is my aunts 100th birthday. kate lives alone and does her own shopping, walks daily, goes to beauty parlor has loads of up spirit and wit and a sharp mind. way to go aunt kate!

Bill 12:26 PM  

As a crossword solver, rather than a constructor, I think themes should make solving the puzzle more enjoyable, as opposed to being impressive. This puzzle is all about feats (pangram, shapes) and nothing about enjoyment.

The T cluing was impossible to notice on an iPhone. I agree with Rex; T-shapes was the puzzle design, not a theme.

After getting SPACEJAM and SCOOTERED I really wanted the theme to be MUPPETS.

Oscar 1:35 PM  

Oh, this is the PENTOMINOES guy. Guess we can all look forward to his tribute to the great state of Utah.

DigitalDan 1:45 PM  

We trumpeters tend to resent the reference to our sound as a "blare", and a "tantara" is sort of the least interesting kind of lick we play ("Oh, you play trumpet? Can you play some sort of fanfare to open our picnic?")

Those of us who followed the US space program from its beginnings in the 50's are more than familiar with the Atlas/Agena combination. These trustworthy engines continue, I think, to play a role in depositing various objects in orbit. Hardly crosswordese to an ancient nerd (unschooled, on the other hand, in ancient literature or recent pop culture.)

syndy 1:49 PM  

@helen cc @Sandyk re G&S Pirates 1879 Iolanthe 1882! When the foeman bares his steel,Tarantara Tarantara. We uncomfortable feel.Tarantara! And we find the wisest thing,Tanantara! Tarantara!Is to slap our chests and sing,Tarantara! For when threatened with emeutes,Tarantara!Tarantara! And your heart is in your boots,Tarantara Tarantara! ther is nothing brings it round like the trumpets martial sound,like the trumpet's martial soundTarantara Tarantara,etc..

Notsofast 1:50 PM  

An absolutely awful puzzle. Abominations like this give Thursdays a bad name. Forcing all clues to begin with "T" is partly to blame; but multiple naticks of foreign and obscure words didn't help. Not fun. F

Bird 1:55 PM  

Everything @Rex said. “Painful themeless” indeed. Sorry Mr. Buckley, but this puzzle was not fun for me. No (real) theme and no gimmick - the black squares just happen to be SHAPED like Ts. And TEAS, TEASE, TEES in a row? Big deal.

This played like a Saturday puzzle - I didn’t know half the answers, at least based on the clues, and thought I knew a couple more. But I don’t mind that because that is what I expect from Saturdays.

WOEBEGONE and SEENOEVIL are the only bright spots.

Tomorrow had better be a good one.

Davis 2:12 PM  

ACK ACK ACK. A major DNF for me—I had TAmTARAS and ?URETE, and had to give up and Google. Horrible puzzle, with too many potential Naticks.

Worst of all is the HSN/SURETE/TANTARAS crossing. SURETE is obscure (though apparently it's been in the NYT puzzle three other times since 1998), as is TANTARA. But they would have at least been gettable on crosses if HSN had been clued in any sane way — when I Googled "Beauty Report" and "Style Report", HSN was not even at the top of the results list. Given the ridiculous array of TV networks out there, this theoretically could have been *any* combination of three letters.

Finally, who the heck is FARON Young, and why is it acceptable for him to cross AGENA? The Cruciverb word list only has one instance of FARON in *any* of its listed sources (a Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle in 2001).

I can see why this puzzle is neat from a constructor's standpoint, with all the T-shapes and the clues starting with 'T'. But as a solver, I care about the *fill*. And there's way too much crap fill here, and not enough sparkle.

Sandy K 2:57 PM  

@syndy

Saw Pirates on Broadway 2x with Kevin Kline. Those words bring back great memories! Thanks!

Got the TANTARA(S) tho I see the actual song lyric is really TAraNTARA. :)

Fire WS 3:25 PM  

What a friggin' lousy [Thursday] puzzle. Today is supposed to be trick-puzzle-day! I don't want a lame-ass T-block puzzle with horrible, obscure, bizarre cluing and dreadful, ugly fill.

Fire WS!

the redanman 3:28 PM  

Painful crap necessary to finish this bad dog that needs drowning.

ACK!?!?!

Indeed

Mitzie 3:53 PM  

"there can be no doubt that the constructor is selfishly sacrificing the quality of cluing to feed his own ego"

I thought this puzzle sucked, too. But @evil, you're so off-base about the motives of a constructor it's laughable.

Get real.

Fire WS 3:58 PM  

@Mitzie - If you knwo that ED is "so off-base" then please explain why the constructor would build such a piece of crap.

Melodiousfunk 4:06 PM  

I just don't get all the complaining responders for puzzles like this. Rex I can understand, he's a constructor and professional kvetcher. From my point of view Mr. Buckley has done a terrific job encorporating his t-shapes with the theme, solutions and clues. I so appreciate his effort and applaud those who found it fun.

I love these guys who have nothing better to do than make my day a bit enjoyable for a retired guy. But then again, de gustibus non disputandem est I suppose.

Lewis 4:22 PM  

@robc -- WAHR comment brilliant!

@doris -- Thank you for the G&S reference! I remember hearing that in my youth, when my mom played G&S all the time. Remembering that song made me smile.

@oscar -- hilarious!

The comments are far more enjoyable today to me than the puzzle itself, which was quite rough. Even though I saw the three Tees across the middle and noticed the shapes right off, when I filled in the theme, I thought, "Is that all there is?" I didn't notice that all the clues began with t, and that explains a lack of cleverness in the cluing.

I own a Vespa and use the word SCOOTERED all the time, and I hear it around also. No problem there.

The southwest was my toughest quadrant. It didn't help that I wanted TAUTNESS. Lots of hard work without a compensatory payoff.

@rex -- I notice that you display your times on some days and not others. For any particular reason?



Joseph B 4:23 PM  

The H_N/_URETE cross was my last letter and my downfall. Both Gurete and Surete looked reasonable for a French word, so I put in G, thinking Home & Garden Network, which turns out isn't a thing.

Loved TINDERBOX, WOEBEGONE, TANTARAS (which I somehow knew), and CABARETS.

Hated NETLIKE, INASTATE, and WAHR. What, I'm supposed to know German beyond what I picked up watching Hogan's Heros? What's next "Leaf: Fr."?

And add to Rex's list of unlikely plurals IQS. Blech.

sanfranman59 4:28 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Thu 19:33, 17:05, 1.14, 75%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 12:28, 9:37, 1.30, 85%, Challenging

I don't know if Thursdays have been unusually tough or if I'm just getting dumber (both?), but this makes 3 out of 5 Thursdays with a DNF for me. I found this solve to be a painful experience and wasn't engaged by it enough to want to fight through to the end. The SW was my Waterloo.

Fire WS 4:34 PM  

@Melodiousfunk - With all the complaints today, I don't think it's a matter of personal taste. Well, except maybe Mr. Buckley and Mr. Shortz.

Fire WS!

Stephen Burns 5:04 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doc John 5:05 PM  

What Rex said. At least I knew who FARON was. Fun fact: Faron was also the name of the Peanuts character Frieda's cat (she of the naturally curly hair).

Stephen Burns 5:09 PM  

Ugh. Nicht wahr, nicht echt, nur dreck!

lawprof 5:37 PM  

This one brought to mind the story of "The Vicar's Egg." (Stop me if you've heard it). The young vicar's bishop invited him to breakfast one morning, after which the bishop's wife asked the vicar how he enjoyed the egg. Replied the vicar: "Parts of it were excellent."

Z 5:54 PM  

DNF - DNC.

E for effort, but not my cuppa. Surprised that this is a pangram given all the plurals and all the past tenses/-ED endings (I think Mr. Buckley is repeatedly shouting out to the Horned Red Duck). 7 -ED endings including the 10D/11D double. There's even a bonus ED in KENNEDYS. Then we get 14 S endings including the 34D/46D double. All these and still a pangram? No wonder the rest of the fill was so constrained.

Mitzie 6:07 PM  

@Fire WS:

You got me -- there is absolutely no reason to construct a crappy puzzle other than masturbatory selfishness.

But of course, the truth is that all constructors are trying to construct puzzles that will sell, which means that they're trying to please the audience. Duh.

Mike Buckley (and Will, let's not forget that! Most of the clues were probably his) may have failed to produce a very entertaining puzzle, but I HIGHLY doubt that it's because of his inflated ego or something of the sort. Sometimes, you just don't hit a home run. That's it.

This is just a freakin' puzzle, and you're just a semi-anonymous blog creeper, just like me.

Like I said before, I thought this was a bad puzzle -- I don't think anyone's denying that today. But thanks, Mike Buckley, and others like you, for putting it all out there for us to judge, like the vultures we are.

Honestly, I still had a great time today.

long suffering mets fan 6:34 PM  

Ugh Not even worthy of lining my bird cage

Long(er) suffering Jets fan 6:52 PM  

My only question is why, with all the things rightly to complain about the puzzle today, did @ED have to get in another shot at ACME?

acme 6:52 PM  

So the FIll Felt Forced, but comparing this to a dog that needs drowning is very depressing.

Obviously you try something new, put it out there and hope for the best.

Of course the constructor tries to please him/herself as we don't know who will be doing the puzzle and it's such a vast audience, you do what pleases you as a creative soul and hope to find that it strikes a chord.

The face that I didn't notice the clues were all T's means I didn't feel it was tortured. In retrospect, having looked up SURETE, I now get the "tec" part.

I noticed the two country songs (why not hedge your bets and clue the GIBBS as something to do with the BeeGees?) but I thought at the time, Michael Buckley must love country music and this is akin to my sticking in a Beatles reference next to a reggae one.

In other words, Puzzles SHOULD reflect the constructors taste...otherwise it's pandering or guessing or not real. You put it out there and hope to attract kindred souls....
You follow the guidelines so it's audience appropriate, and you read blogs like this for feedback and to see where improvement might take place...
But knocking this for trying to do something with the grid black squares, the clues and the three teEs/TEASE/TEAS seems a Tad over the Top.

Obviously this many people unhappy means he failed on some levels, if people didn't like, they didn't like...
but to suggest constructors not follow their own hearts, quirkiness, individual tastes, attempts at something knew, fun (to them and Will) gimmicks in hopes to bring joy is not fully understanding the creative process.
Ideally you do your own thing AND the majority of folks cotton to it...or you bring people up to your level or you experiment and risk being called a genius or an utter failure...
You do what pleases you and hope by extension it pleases others.
But the level some have dragged this discussion down to is distressing.

By the way, loved the @rex graphic of the ref making the T sign!

Tita 6:55 PM  

Well, after my shock at finding last Saturday easy, I didn't have to wait till Friday to be humbled...TKOd by a Thursday?
Googled Thrice! Wasn't wild about it - I always hope for a funner trick.

Tã-tã-rã-TÃ…the ã being a nasalish ‘an'.
So TANTARAS made perfect sense – well, once I had TAN_ARAS it did.
Really hard, kept expecting more of a Theme.

I did love writing in the word SCOOTERED – I’ve always wanted a shiny red Vespa…
@Lewis – I envy you!
Never noticed the clues. That would probably have confused me even more.

@Acme – duly noted – you’re now in the Hall of Fame

the redanman 7:28 PM  

As one who groused about this being a terrible puzzle, HEY! these things are supposed to be fun. If my finishing that was fun, I'll cut back on fun or re-define it.

Rube 7:41 PM  

I agree with the majority that this was an enjoyable puzzle, but I'll say that this was probably because of so much I didn't know, like on Fridays and Saturdays: GALANTINE, TANTARAS, and FARON.

That's not to say there wasn't some good fill: WOEBEGONE, ENTRANCED, and SEENOEVIL. But more evident was the bad fill: INASTATE, SCOOTERED, NETLIKE, and telegraphESE.

Thanks @Evan for remimding me of FARON Woods in "The Legend of Zelda". Once I got all the crosses, the name was vaguely familiar, but from where would not come. I spent many hours with the kids playing this game. Finished it too, on a ski trip to Tahoe as I remember. Fond memories from 25+ years ago.

Rube 7:43 PM  

I agree with the majority that this was not an enjoyable puzzle, but I'll say that this was probably because of so much I didn't know, like on Fridays and Saturdays: GALANTINE, TANTARAS, and FARON.

That's not to say there wasn't some good fill: WOEBEGONE, ENTRANCED, and SEENOEVIL. But more evident was the bad fill: INASTATE, SCOOTERED, NETLIKE, and telegraphESE.

Thanks @Evan for remimding me of FARON Woods in "The Legend of Zelda". Once I got all the crosses, the name was vaguely familiar, but from where would not come. I spent many hours with the kids playing this game. Finished it too, on a ski trip to Tahoe as I remember. Fond memories from 25+ years ago.

Chris Kearin 7:54 PM  

I should have remembered AGENA from my childhood, but didn't. Crossing that with FARON was atrocious. I'd say ACK all around for this one.

Z 8:31 PM  

@Long(er) suffering- Ahab had his white whale, Khan had his Jame T. Kirk, Evil has his ACME.

I forgot to mention that this puzzle exposed that I am as ignorant in the area of country singers as I am in arias. Please - no country music/classical music combo themes.

mac 8:49 PM  

We need like-buttons on the blog. I agree with Andrea.

No one knows me either 8:54 PM  

Just in case anyone's counting, "This Little Girl of Mine" topped out at #5 on the Country charts, never made it to the overall charts, in 1972. You know what else made it to 5 in 1972? Me.

No wonder no one knew.

sanfranman59 10:27 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 8:03, 6:12, 1.30, 99%, Challenging (2nd highest ratio of 163 Mondays)
Tue 8:44, 8:37, 1.01, 56%, Medium
Wed 9:24, 11:33, 0.81, 9%, Easy
Thu 19:38, 17:05, 1.15, 76%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:32, 3:39, 1.24, 99%, Challenging (3rd highest ratio of 163 Mondays)
Tue 5:00, 5:01, 1.00, 47%, Medium
Wed 5:40, 6:29, 0.87, 17%, Easy
Thu 11:52, 9:37, 1.23, 83%, Challenging

Sparky 11:23 PM  

DNF. The whole center empty. Got SURETE. Tec made me think of mystery stories and Maigret surfaced. Memory is amazing. Missed the theme completely till I came here.

OISK 1:09 AM  

Just a brief next morning note to say I enjoyed this puzzle, finishing it without ever noticing that all of the clues began with the same letter, ( clueless of me!) and that the grid has T shaped black squares. Why the objections to the "Wahr" when another puzzle this week had TWO Spanish words? Nothing wrong with an occasional simple foreign word. Verdad, vrai,.. fine with me. Never heard of Faron, nor Agena, but the down clues made it doable..
Thanks, Mike Buckley.

Dean 1:58 AM  

A twit is not a tease, but to twit is to tease.

Bob 2:08 PM  

You'll find TANTARA as a direction in Shakespearean plays

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

@andrea: my aunt is the incredible 100 year old who had her birthday on Feb 2. you asked me to contact you but i have no idea how to do so. please advise. thanks.

Spacecraft 10:25 AM  

@Melodiusfunk: We are agreed: in fact, my dad used to say that Latin phrase all the time. I'm not exactly sure what makes OFL happy in a crossword puzzle; I know there is plenty that doesn't. Maybe somewhere there exists--as yet unconstructed--the "perfect" grid: one containing great, "normal" real words all throughout, like ORGANIZER and TOLERATE and TINDERBOX and EQUITABLE, all beautifully crossing with other nice regular words. Keep dreamin' Rexie; it ain't gonna happen. Down here in the trenches of the real world we have to pay for stacked nines and such. Take a pill.

I swept through the NW like Sherman to the sea, then sailed off toward the NE with the "gimme" Intel chip pEntium! Oops! Bermuda triangle time! From then on the puzzle was a struggle. Finally got the SW after correcting iCK to the Guisewitean ACK, then worked over to the SE (oh no, he didn't do EXED, did he? Yep. Ugh.)

Now to the NE. I have my pentium inked in, so sure was I, I had to mentally erase that line and work around, starting with the corner of KENNEDYS DESK. Only then was I able to get RECOURSE and the rest of the center. CELERON, eh? Never heard of it. Ah, I'm so 20th-century.

I liked it. Though I found it medium-challenging, my Intel mistake cost me dearly; without it I may have called it medium. Never realized that all the clues began with T till I came here. That to me makes a good puzzle awesome! Should have guessed it, though, with that non-NCIS Gibbs clue. Last letter was the near-natick at HS?/TA?TARAS. Um, Home Shopping...was it Channel or Network? Tactaras or tantaras? At last I remembered seeing HSN somewhere: solved!

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

Have to disagree with Mr Parker's entire commentary. I found this easy and enjoyable, with only one google. I think age makes the difference. Agena? Easy, Anton? Of course. Scootered? Heard it many times. Celeron? Check various PC specs. Considering the three Ts in the middle, The Tshapes in the grid and the starts of all the cluing, this certainly in a THEME puzzle. Acme, I love ya. ED, get a blue pill.
Ron Diego 3/7/13

Solving in Seattle 1:31 PM  

The posTmorTem on this puzzle is almost epic, ranging from fawning awe to Terrible panning. I just wish Evil Doug would quit mincing words and Tell us whaT he really Thinks.

ACK is awful. No excuses. There are better clues Mike could have used, but They wouldn't have started with a "T," e.g., ___ nak, as in radio radio protocols.

To me, This puzzle had multiple layers of cool, so I side with the Thumbs arriba folks.

rain forest 2:59 PM  

Though I never noticed that all the clues started with T, I now think that some of the awkwardness resulted from the constructor's choice. TRIMNESS bothers me, but I guess it 'works'. Some answers that were ? to many, I just knew: Eg CELERON, SURETE, TANTARAS, Terri GIBBS, thus proving that there are horses for courses.

DMGrandma 5:21 PM  

Did this one without ever noticing all the T's, figuring TSHAPE referred to the grid. Glad to learn others were similarly blind. Slowed down a bit in the SW, because I could remember that turkey thing, but thought it had two LL's. Eventually MONARCHS broke through where I was thinking dictators. In the end my mess-up was SPACEJet, thinking the unknown Maxim could be aimed at ten year olds. In retrospect, I should have remembered AZO from previous solves. All in all, I enjoyed the appearance of so many new words, excepting WAHR, which doesn't even look like a word to me. Anyone else question the cluing for RECOURSE?

Dirigonzo 6:26 PM  

Well I liked it, even though it took me an embarrassingly long time to see the black T shapes in the grid. When I finally had the theme answer in place the center of the grid opened up and I was able to ditch some wrong answers that I had stuck with for way too long. Having toad for NEWT, dweeb for TEASE and INASweat for INASTATE made that section much more difficult that it had to be (but that's how I roll most of the time). Of course I missed the rest of the theme until I came here.

Dirigonzo 6:45 PM  

@DMG - I put RECOURSE in without understanding the clue. My post-solve google unearthed a definition of "alternative" so I guess if the first two ways don't work the third way might be your last RECOURSE? Anytime I see a "maybe" in the clue I figure it might be a stretch.

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